WASHINGTON U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder plans to stay in the Obama administration well into 2014 but declined in an interview with The New Yorker magazine to say precisely how long, according to a transcript issued by his office on Monday.
The chief U.S. law enforcement officer and a lightning rod for criticism by Republicans, Holder said there were still things he wanted to do such as pursuing financial fraud and easing mandatory minimum prison sentences.
"So I'm going to be here for a while," Holder told The New Yorker magazine in a December 19 interview to be published in the February 17/February 24 edition.
Holder repeated to the magazine what he said in other interviews: "I think I've said, 'well into 2014'."
A Department of Justice spokesman said Holder "did not speak about his plans any further than that."
In a story published on Monday, The New Yorker reported the comments as meaning that Holder will leave office sometime this year. A magazine spokeswoman said the transcript spoke for itself.
Holder took office in February 2009 after an appointment by Democratic President Barack Obama. Although resignation rumors have followed Holder for years, he has remained long enough to become the fifth-longest-serving attorney general in U.S. history.
Holder served in the Justice Department's No. 2 job under Attorney General Janet Reno, whose tenure from 1993 to 2001 was the second-longest in U.S. history.
William Wirt had the longest tenure, serving from 1817 to 1829 under presidents James Monroe and John Quincy Adams.
Separately on Monday, Holder sent two memoranda to Justice Department employees. In one, he laid out in writing several additional rights for gay and lesbian spouses that he described in a speech on Saturday. They include the right not to incriminate each other in federal civil and criminal cases.
In the second memo, Holder said the Justice Department had lifted the hiring freeze that has hampered the department for three years. The department, which includes the FBI and federal prosecutors' offices in every major U.S. city, has lost a net of more than 4,100 staff members since January 2011 because of the restriction on hiring.
A new budget law Obama signed in January allowed the department to lift the restrictions, Holder wrote.
"After years of doing more with less, we will begin to fill critical vacancies," he said in a video message released along with the memo.
(Editing by Howard Goller and Grant McCool)